Taking Stock: March 2014 | Monthly Roundup

the finer things club lifestyle blog uk

- pretty March sunset

Bbeing adventurous, embracing creativity and double stuffed Oreos.
L: chasing Woody on the beach, roast potatoes and the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy! 


B&Lsome movies, x files S1 and parks & rec S3-4.
B: dexter S1-6, the office and adventure time S1.
L:  marvel's agents of SHIELD and pixar shorts.

B&L: milk and black spiders - foals, feel - bombay bicycle club and neon bible in a lift - arcade fire. 

L metal gear solid peacewalker, metal gear solid ground zeroes and don't starve. 

READING  {check out bee's march book reviews}
Bdark places by gillian flynn.
L:  the time machine - h. g. wells and the knife of never letting go - patrick ness

Ban equally successful April, a good night's sleep and someone rich to become my anonymous benefactor.
L: superpowers and south park the stick of truth

B: april and andy, the pup and dwight schrute.
L: the new trailer for the goat simulator video game. It looks hilariously amazing!

B: lots of diss work, blog work and a restful month.
L: lots of writing ahead, saving for adventures and days out and films that I'm going to go see this summer.

Bto get some more work done, to spend some time with Luke and to get some better sleep.
Lmore writing and more days out of the house as well as going to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier at the cinema, of course! 

  What have you been up to this month? 
• Do you have any plans for April?

LEAVE US YOUR ANSWERS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW or tweet us @tftcblog. If you enjoyed this post, feel free to subscribe through Bloglovin and check us out on Twitter. We'll see you on Wednesday!

with regards, THE FINER THINGS CLUB.



March Film Reviews | Monthly Roundup

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Whilst we haven't watched many films this month, due to other commitments and Parks and Rec marathons, we have watched a nice eclectic mix. Some brilliant, some a little terrible! If you've seen any of these films, let us know what you thought of them in the comments section below and feel free to give us some recommendations too.

ender's game film review uk blg

1. ender's game (luke didn't like it!)
2013 | 114 min | action / adventure / sci-fi
Young Ender Wiggin is recruited by the International Military to lead the fight against the Formics, a genocidal alien race which nearly annihilated the human race in a previous invasion. 

L: This is not the best one to start off with but it's actually weirdly refreshing to talk about a film I didn't like, as most of our film round-ups so far have been generally positive. This film was a big disappointment for me, as I felt it could have been so much more! There are such interesting ideas and settings hovering around in the background but they never really break into the film and, as a result, nothing really happens. It really is a shame that the most interesting part of Ender's Game, in my opinion, takes place in the last ten minutes. I suppose it doesn't help either that it's difficult to actually care about any of the characters. The script feels very weak perched on top of what could have been an awesome and somewhat unique sci-fi setting, and sadly the acting just wasn't good enough to draw me in. So yeah, I look up at the poster and gaze at all that fascinating stuff in the background and then I see Harrison Ford's face, as lovely as it is, replicating the exact expression I had at the end of this film. 

frozen film reviews uk lifestyle blog the finer things club

2. frozen (we liked it!)
2013 | 102 min | animation / adventure / comedy
Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna's sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter. 

B: If you know me, you'll know that I like a sing song as much as the next person. However, I think there were too many songs in Frozen. Whilst they were heartfelt, I didn't think the score was particularly strong compared to other Disney / Pixar films. The pacing was another thing that failed to impress me. I was expecting some sort of epic quest full of fun and adventure but I don't think it delivered. I did, however, like the comedic moments throughout the film, notably from Oaken in his little cabin and Sven the reindeer. I'm a sucker for funny animals a la Maximus from Tangled. Whilst I thought this film was visually stunning, I don't think it was anywhere near as good as my top two Disney princess favourites Brave and Tangled. It's still definitely worth a watch though, and I'm sure young Disney fans will be head over heels for it. 

LI think I'll start by agreeing with Bee, there were too many songs for my liking. Maybe I'm just a sad old Scrooge but it just seemed like they were cramming them in whenever and wherever. Songs aside though, I liked this film. The animation was awesome, the voice acting was strong and I loved Sven the reindeer. He reminded me of my dog, Woody. Admittedly, this tale doesn't really see any of the characters go very far on their adventure and the plot could be a little less conventional but hey, this is a film for kids too so I think it strikes a good balance of keeping everyone happy. 

the giant mechanical man film reviews uk lifestyle film tv blog

3. the giant mechanical man (bee didn't like it!)
2012 | 94 min | comedy / drama / romance
An offbeat romantic comedy about a silver-painted street performer and the soft spoken zoo worker who falls for him. 

B:  I don't usually watch rom-coms, particularly ones that aren't rated very highly, but I needed something so-so to have on in the background whilst I did some coding and I thought this film would do the trick. I won't lie, I watched this film mainly for its actors - Jenna Fischer and Chris Messina - and honestly they were the only okay thing about this movie. It was a throwaway film, attempting to be an indie romance but falling short of the mark due to its weird pacing, empty plot and poor dialogue. Give this one a miss. 

uk lifestyle blog the finer things club wes anderson movie reviews

4. fantastic mr fox (we loved it!)
An urban fox cannot resist returning to his farm raiding ways and then must help his community survive the farmers' retaliation. 

 B: I reviewed this film for our January film reviews and our Book vs. Film adaptation post so you probably know how much I love it by now! I adore this film, from the superb voice acting to the film's overall aesthetics. You should all watch it like...now. 

L: I guess Bee's pretty much nailed it with her review. This film is awesome. I waited too long to see this film, don't make the same mistake because you're missing out!

submarine uk lifestyle blog the finer things club film reviews

5. submarine (bee liked it!)
2010 | 97 min | comedy / drama /romance
15 year old Oliver Tate has two objectives: To lose his virginity before his next birthday, and to extinguish the flame between his mother and an ex-lover who has resurfaced in her life.

 BI also reviewed this film in our Book vs. Film Adaptation post so you should check that out if you haven't already! I thought that the cinematography was beautiful and it's certainly a film I'd recommend for lazy Sunday viewing. However, it wasn't anywhere near as sharp as the book and the plot was a little empty as a result. Read the book before watching it.   


6. blade runner (luke loved it!)
1982 | 117 min | drama / sci-fi / thriller 
A blade runner must pursue and try to terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space and have returned to Earth to find their creator. 

L:  Blade Runner is a classic. A film you should all really get round to watching and one that I found even more fascinating after I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the book Ridley Scott took inspiration from when making this beauty! You can see further comparison on our Books vs. Film Adaptation post. 

american hustle movie review lifestyle blogs

7. american hustle (Bex liked it! Luke Loved It!)
2013 | 138 min | crime / drama 
A con man, Irving Rosenfeld, along with his seductive partner Sydney Prosser, is forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso, who pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia. 

BI think there were times where I felt the film could be a little more concise, and a little less dense, but overall it made for a really interesting watch. I was particularly impressed by the acting throughout, and I would say it was the highlight for me.  It's a good film that I can see a lot of people enjoying so take time to watch it when it's released!  

LThis is one of those films that you really get drawn in to as you watch it. The acting in both main and supporting roles is really as good as it gets and is largely why you get drawn in. Christian Bale's performance for me was the highlight, in fact, I'm convinced he is indeed a conman disguised as an actor. I believe this film is partly based on truths from somewhere in history too which always makes me a little more intrigued too. American Hustle is a brilliant film and if it wasn't for 12 Years a Slave I think it would have been the best film I've seen this year. 

the finer things club uk lifestyle blog movie reviews

8. nobody walks (bee liked it!)
2012 | 83 min | drama 
A Silver Lake family's relaxed dynamic is tested after they take in a young artist so she can complete her art film. 

B: I won't lie, I only watched this film because John Krasinski was in it. Sue me! The plot and the dialogue could have been stronger but the acting and cinematography were both pretty good. It was a little too slow for me, and nowhere near as good as Away We Go, but I would recommend it to fellow Krasinski fans and those that love a bit of lens flare.  

B: Fantastic Mr Fox 
L: American Hustle

 What have you watched this month?
• Do you have any recommendations?

LEAVE US YOUR ANSWERS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW or tweet us using @tftcblog. If you enjoyed this post, feel free to subscribe through Bloglovin and check us out on Twitter. We'll see you on Sunday!

with regards, THE FINER THINGS CLUB.



Bee's Mini Graphic Novel Collection | Graphic Novels

uk lifestyle blog the finer things club graphic novels

Whilst my graphic novel collection isn't as established as Luke's, it's comprised of two beauties that I thought I'd share with your fine selves on this rainy Sunday afternoon. If you're a graphic novel novice like myself, I highly recommend picking up these two to ease yourself in lightly. With beautiful stories and stunning artwork to boot, it's a bit of a no brainer!

photo 1photo 2photo 4

the new ghost by rob hunter (2011)
A beautifully rendered, literally haunting tale of the afterlife, The New Ghost follows a spectral entity on his first day at work: dark, gentle, poetic, and heart-warming all at once, it is an atmospheric tale to dash the conventions of comics and leave you thirsty for more...

Luke gifted me this little graphic comic after I spotted it on Nobrow and I absolutely fell in love with it. I think the concept is absolutely brilliant, and it lends itself so well to its graphic form. Whilst this comic is quite small, it certainly packs a punch story-wise as it evolves into a heartwarming tale over the space of a few pages. The art style is also ridiculously beautiful. I mean, just look at those colours! The perfect comic to ease you in nicely, and a beautiful addition to any bookcase. 

SSFSphoto 5

the gigantic beard that was evil by stephen collins (2013)
On the buttoned-down island of Here, all is well. By which we mean: orderly, neat, contained and, moreover, beardless. Or at least it is until one famous day, when Dave, bald but for a single hair, finds himself assailed by a terrifying unstoppable monster! Where did it come from? How should the islanders deal with it? And what, more importantly, are they going to do with Dave? 

I really enjoyed everything about this graphic novel, from its monochrome art style to its references to Eternal Flame by The Bangles. The title alone is pretty fantastic, I think you'll agree. The Gigantic Beard is hugely accessible, and I think it's a pretty good staple for any collection whether you're an esteemed graphic novel collector or a complete n00b. It also makes a pretty perfect gift for the pogonophile in your life. 

NOW THAT YOU'VE SEEN bee's mini collection, TELL US...
 Do you own any graphic novels? Which ones?
 Which ones should I get my hands on next? 

Leave your answers in the comments below, or tweet us @tftcblog. We'll see you on Wednesday. P.S If you'd like to see more about graphic novels, check out Luke's Read, To Read, Want post. 

with regards, THE FINER THINGS CLUB.



Luke's Top 5 Story-Driven Video Games | Video Games

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Bee and I have covered a lot of stories that take place in TV series', in films and on paper but another story-driven medium that frequently gets overlooked is that of video games. Video gaming, for a while now, has had to weather the many stigmas and stereotypes slapped on it by various parts of the media and individuals. Whilst it's certainly no angel, as I've seen and played some terrible games, there's no doubt that there are some truly great games out there telling some really awesome stories. So I've decided to share some of my favourite story driven video games with you and, dare I say it, some of them come mightily close to the quality you might expect to find bound in a book or before your eyes at the cinema! My aim here is to look at the dynamics of the various tales, and to look at what storytelling in video games offers that books and films may not. Please note: these are in no particular order. 

the last of us video game review top 5 story driven games uk lifestyle blog

The Last of us (2013)
Twenty years after a pandemic radically transformed known civilisation, infected humans run amuck and survivors kill one another for sustenance and weapons-literally whatever they can get their hands on. Joel, a salty survivor, is hired to smuggle a fourteen-year-old girl, Ellie, out of a rough military quarantine, but what begins as a simple job quickly turns into a brutal journey across the country.

When it is done well you almost forget you're playing a game.

This is simply one of the best video games I've ever played and a lot of that is down to how well written the story is, as well as its pacing and its characters. I actually think The Walking Dead, although I do like the series, could learn a lot from this game and, saying that, I also think most films dealing with similar material could too. Once I was a few hours into The Last of Us, I started having to remind myself that I was actually playing a video game. I don't know how Naughty Dog, the team behind the game, managed to make me feel as though I was sitting down ready to watch, or in this case play, another episode of an enthralling TV series every time I loaded a saved game! I can't praise this game enough with the dynamics between the main characters really shining through alongside the strong script and stellar voice acting. It's no surprise then that this game recently took the gaming equivalent of the BAFTA's by storm, winning many accolades as well as Best Game. I would say The Last of Us is a real benchmark for storytelling in video games as it really demonstrates how far the medium has come and how far it can go in the future. 

bioshock infinite uk lifestyle blog review top 5 video games 2014

Bioshock infinite (2013)
Initially conceived as a floating symbol of American ideals at a time when the United States was emerging as a world power, Columbia is sent to distant shores with great fanfare by a captivated public. What begins as a fresh new endeavor of hope turns drastically wrong as the city soon disappears into the clouds to whereabouts unknown. The player takes on the role of former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt, sent to the lost city to rescue Elizabeth, a young lady imprisoned there since her childhood.   

Combining some of the best attributes of book and film storytelling. 

Bioshock Infinite also happens to be a pretty awesome game but its story catches my eye for different reasons. It's more about its scope and the wonder that is Columbia, a floating city among the clouds. I like the fact that you are able to explore the city yourself, although admittedly that exploration is limited. I think that's one of the main things that this game conveys well, the way in which video games afford you the ability of experiencing a story in a different way. Not only do you get to experience the freedom of imagination that novels allow you, you also have the visual and audio reinforcements that film provides to push the story further still. Some of the very best video games can combine these two worlds and Bioshock Infinite is certainly one of them.     

half life 2 video game review uk lifestyle blog the finer things club

Half-Life 2 (2004)
The player again picks up the crowbar of research scientist Gordon Freeman, who finds himself on an alien-infested Earth being picked to the bone, its resources depleted, its populace dwindling. Freeman is thrust into the unenviable role of rescuing the world from the wrong he unleashed back at Black Mesa. 

It all has to start somewhere and for me it was here.

2004 was the year that I really started to appreciate storytelling within video games, and since then I have always looked out for games with a good story to tell. I see Half-Life 2 as the turning point in modern video gaming and I would say that it still beats a lot of the games out today in so many ways, particularly in its storytelling. It was the first game I think I played where I began to care about the characters and story, like I would in a good film or book. The way the game isn't broken up into separate 'levels', instead played as one ongoing story, is one of those small elements that goes a long way (and to be fair it was something Half-Life did well too way back in 1998!). The whole game feels well...whole and neatly bound together like a book. I also like how you play a silent protagonist, like many other games, it lets you create your own thoughts and judgements, in place of any predetermined ones, which is again something you would find yourself doing when reading a book. To put it simply, Half-Life 2 took the big step with regards to storytelling in video games and it's a game that a lot of other game developers can still learn a trick or two from today. 
mass effect 3 video game review uk lifestyle blog the finer things club

Mass effect 3 (2012)
Earth is burning. Striking from beyond known space, a race of terrifying machines have begun their destruction of the human race. As commander Shepard, an Alliance Marine, the only hope of saving mankind is to rally the civilisations of the galaxy and launch one final mission to take back Earth. 

The modern day blockbuster is making its way into gaming.

This was a tricky one to include, not because it isn't an awesome example of storytelling in video games but because of that number 3 sitting on the end. Quite simply to truly appreciate the game and its accompanying story you really do have to play the first two first but, by doing so, it only aids the things you experience at the end of the trilogy. I guess Mass Effect 3 represents the epic action blockbuster you would normally find yourself sat down watching with no controller in sight. That was the main element that stuck with me, it felt like I was right in the middle of one of those films but with a certain level of freedom to choose how it would all pan out. A flexible and immersive story that you don't get when you go to the cinema, well not at any of the ones I've been to anyway! It's also worth noting that, again, well crafted characters can go a long way in not just making a good story but also one you care about, especially when you have the power to choose how it ends. 

metal gear solid video game review uk lifestyle blog the finer things club

Metal gear solid 3: Snake Eater (2004)
In the struggle to achieve world peace and world dominance, rivalling governments are secretly developing weapons technology that could threaten the future existence of life. A special elite tactical soldier is summoned to penetrate deep in the heart of enemy territory and obtain intel about "Metal Gear", a prototype weapon with nuclear capabilities. The story is set is the 1960's where politics and war are shaping real world history. 

The story's that are unique to video gaming. 

Of all the main protagonists in the games I've mentioned so far, I think this game offers the most interesting one. Unlike the 3 that sits at the end of the previous game above, the one that is present here is slightly misleading. It's the beginning of a story regarding a different character to the previous games in the franchise. Again, it's a game largely revolving around interesting characters, yet I also love how it takes real life historical events and uses fiction to twist them in interesting ways. This is nothing new of course but it's done well and in a bizarrely fascinating way. There is no denying that sometimes you can stumble upon really weird and odd elements to the game's narrative but, saying that, it knows its a game and it doesn't pretend not to be one and I love that. It offers a unique storytelling experience very much in the skin of a video game but I think it's definitely an acquired taste. A game you'll love or hate, depending on how seriously you take it. 

NOW THAT i've shared some of my favourites, TELL me...
 Do you play video games? If not, why? 
 If so, what games have you been enjoying recently? 

Leave your answers in the comments below, or tweet us @tftcblog. We'll see you on Sunday.

with regards, THE FINER THINGS CLUB.